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The Melbourne Emergence Special Public Meetup


Special Public Meetup

Dave Snowden

Doing More with Less, the Pragmatic Lessons of Complexity Theory



Melbourne Emergence Meetup and Kororoit Institute jointly with RMIT University Centre for Business Education Research are happy to host an open meeting in Melbourne with Dave Snowden, Founder and Chief Scientist of Cognitive Edge. He will be discussing some of his ideas on governance, monitoring, measurement and the like; and looking at how complexity can make a difference to engagement and empowering communities to speak in their own voice. That would include new approaches to evidence based policy under conditions of uncertainty.


We are probably at a turning point in the take up of complex adaptive systems theory in both Government and Industry and as in any turning point there is both threat and opportunity.  The threats range from those simply using complexity as a bright new wrapper for older tools and techniques to the more respectable failure to realise that human complex systems are different in both nature and intervention.  This seminar will argue that complexity needs to be seen as a new approach, not a sub-set of general systems theory and that we need to integrate aspects of cognitive science and the biological end of anthropology into a new body of theory and practice.

Snowden's paper in the HBR on complexity in the context of leadership, written with Mary Boone has won awards from the Academy of Management for its practical nature, and more recently as one of the 50 most cited papers in its class. This lecture will update that paper with additional material on managing both complexity and using chaos to improve decision making and situational assessment.  This will be illustrated by a range of projects using micro-narrative techniques (a quantitative method for distributed ethnography and abductive research).  These include:

  • Building human sensor networks across large urban populations in Latin America and the Middle East to understanding underlying patterns of motivation and response and to enable weak signal detection.
  • Development projects in Africa, including using complexity techniques to understand and empower victims of genital mutilation and rape to interpret their own stories.
  • Measuring resilience in organisations and populations and building loosely coupled nodal networks in advance of need.

Dave Snowden was one of the founders of Melbourne Emergence Meetup in November 2004. The Meetup group welcomes him to its regular monthly meeting. While Director of IBM’s Institution for Knowledge Management in the early 2000’s he established the Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity in Wales, which was spun out when Dave left IBM in 2004 to found his current company, Cognitive Edge. His work is international in nature and covers government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making. He has pioneered a science based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive systems theory. Dave is a popular and passionate keynote speaker on a range of subjects, and is well known for his pragmatic cynicism and iconoclastic style. It has been a long time since he has been available to contribute to Melbourne Emergence, so we are very happy to welcome him back. Melbourne Emergence Meetup is especially thankful to Profs. Sandra Jones, Roger Hadgraft, and the RMIT University Centre for Business Education Research for facilitating this event.

After the talk join us next door at Oxford Scholars Hotel for dinner/drinks.

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  • Tony S.

    Dave Snowden gave a better explanation of the thinking that underlies Emergence Meetup and Kororoit Institute that we have managed to do for ourselves, intermixed with entertaining anecdotes.

    June 15, 2013

  • Jon B.

    Excellent evening and very thought provoking. Well organised and run. Thanks

    June 14, 2013

  • Leon S.

    Excellent - Dave Snowden provided a wide ranging review of his work and then graciously answered questions for about half an hour

    June 14, 2013

  • Luke G.

    A really super experience. So many valuable leasons in complexity theory my head was buzzing for hours.

    June 14, 2013

    • Helen P.

      It was amazing! My head too was buzzing. Gracious husband survived my late evening debrief!

      1 · June 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Looks like I might be running a bit late. Is it the talk starting at 6pm sharp or is there some lead-in time?

    June 13, 2013

    • Tony S.

      After a few minutes grace for people still coming in, there will be maybe ten minutes of intro before we hand it to Dave.

      1 · June 13, 2013

  • Warwick P.

    Sorry - feeling sick

    June 12, 2013

  • Carolyn A.

    Unfortunatley, I must now send apologies. Sorry to miss out on such a stimulating conversation. I would be interested in any notes/forums after the event

    June 12, 2013

  • Alberto G.

    I have to take medication for a medical procedure Friday morning 7 need to be at home.

    June 12, 2013

  • Andrew DuLaney S.

    My apologies, I will be tentative for this event.

    June 11, 2013

  • Roger H.

    one of the organsiers

    June 11, 2013

  • Patrick Daniel S.

    I'll have to leave hosting in Tony, Bill & Roger's capable hands this month - as will be at the Trains not Tollroads launch for my PhD.

    June 7, 2013

  • Kurt R.

    Looking forward to hearing David , following our years in AOK. Hearing the change will be interesting.

    June 5, 2013

  • Stuart F.

    Looking forward to hearing David speak again

    June 3, 2013

  • Leon S.

    Looking forward to it - thanks for the opportunity, chrs L

    May 24, 2013

  • Colin F.

    Keen to hear David's talk on Complexity

    May 24, 2013

  • Patrick Daniel S.

    Unfortunately cannot attend now due to a public transport forum on closely related to my PhD that nite ...

    May 22, 2013

    • Tony S.

      I've sent my personal apologies to Jackie Fristacky and look forward to catching up with you ASAP after the clash for mutual debriefing. Plus more both before and after.

      May 24, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member


    May 23, 2013

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